New Zealand face Cuba clash to keep World Cup title hopes alive

New Zealand’s chances of qualifying through to the Super Round remain alive at the Tradestaff WBSC Men’s Softbll World Cup in Auckland.

The Golden Homes Black Sox bounced back from the agonising loss to Argentina on Monday, to vanquish the Philippines 8-1.

Unbeaten Argentina and USA have secured spots in Group A for the Super Round, with the Black Sox to take on Cuba in a winner-take-all game for the final place in the medal round.

Canada, who have won four from four this week and Australia have qualified in Group B with Venezuela and Japan to fight out for the remaining spot.

The must-win game for New Zealand things didn't go according to plan for the hosts as Michael Pagkaliwagan's double scored Mark Janzen in the top of the first for Philippines.

Living up to their favourites tag, the Black Sox replied immediately with Reilly Makea hitting his first homer of the tournament, scoring Joel and Cole Evens in the process to give world No. 6 New Zealand a 3-1 lead.

The Black Sox increased the lead in the third with Joel Evans scoring off his brother's Cole single to centre field before Jerome Raemaki also hit a ground ball to centre field scoring Ben Enoka and Reilly Makea. Thomas Enoka scored on a sacrifice fly by Connor Peden for NZ to lead 7-1.

It was left for Thomas Enoka to single to right field and score Reilly Makea for New Zealand to win 8-1 by the run-ahead-rule.

“It’s always nice to come to a World Cup and get a win. They are not easy to come by as we experienced last night. The Philippines are a great side and they fight hard so it is nice to come away with a win,” said captain Cole Evans.

“That builds some confidence going into tomorrow. We got a few hits tonight and the boys looked more confident that the other few nights. It was nice to see that.

“It was a tough loss last night and difficult for the boys who really felt it. But that shows they care. It was nice today to come to the park with a bit more confidence and I thought we played well.

“Cuba is a big game. Obviously they have played some good softball so far in the tournament and they are a side that is not to be taken lightly. We are looking forward to that one.”

The heavyweight clash of unbeaten Canada and Australia was important for points which carry through to the Super Round.

In-form Australian pitcher Jack Besgrove suffered his first home run at the hands of Canada’s Derek Mayson who finished with two home runs and a double as Canada scored a stunning 6-0 victory and handing Australia their first loss.

“We have been preparing, preparing, preparing and everything we have talked about as a team, we managed to implement today. We made adjustments out on the plate, fantastic pitching, and a big shout out to Deryk Mason with two home runs and a double,” said coach John Stuart.

In the first ever World Cup encounter between USA and Cuba, the five-time champion Americans opened the scoring in their first turn at bat to open a quick two-run lead before Cuba, ranked 12th in the world, responded in the third with two runs of their own.

USA responded to push to a 6-2 lead before Jonathan Lynch bombed his second over centre field to enable the American to lead 8-2, with Cuba pulling two runs back before they ran out of runway.

“We came out today a lot better than we came out yesterday. We stayed within ourselves, we had really good at-bats and the pitchers threw really well. It was a great team victory,” said coach Ron Hackett.

“We are happy where we are at. We are set up well – the guys have good mentality. I am really excited.”

Argentina showed no ill-effects from their spectacular comeback victory over New Zealand on Monday, with a solid 5-1 victory to extinguish the Czech Republic’s chances of progressing.

“The thing is to play this tournament day by day, live in the now. So don’t get into the past and do not think about the future,” said coach Julio Gamarci.

“We still have the US who have a great team. They will come with their best game so if we want to get to the Super Round undefeated, then tomorrow we must play real good.”

The unpredictable Venezuela gave themselves a strong chance to progress with their 3-1 win over Japan, with the two sides locked in a share of third place with a two win-two loss record.

The South Americans are heavily favoured to progress as they take on the winless Denmark tomorrow while Japan face a mountain to climb in group leader, Canada.

On the back of a home run, South Africa led 4-3 before Rowan Ebersohn scored for a second time in the sixth to cement a 5-3 win over Denmark, in the battle of the two winless teams.

It marked South Africa's first of the tournament and first World Cup win since beating the Netherlands in the last edition in 2019 where they had lost to Denmark 7-0.